Civil society strategy: How to get involved

As many of you may already know, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), in conjunction with other government departments, has launched an engagement exercise designed to inform a new Civil Society Strategy.

The strategy, which Minister for Civil Society Tracey Crouch described as ‘vital to our mission to build a fairer society’, will look to improve relations, understanding and co-working between public bodies and organisations and initiatives that comprise ‘civil society’*. Find out more about the strategy here.

While the scope is broad – referencing communities, charities, profit-making organisations and movements, as well as specific issues such as digital inclusion and loneliness – its four main areas of focus are:

Civil society: What is civil society? What is working well and what needs to change?
People: How can more people take action on the issues that matter to them?
Partnership: What are the best ways to work across different sectors to make a better society?
Places: How can local people be empowered to improve the places they live and work?

ACF will be submitting a response before the deadline on 22 May. To inform this, we plan to facilitate member engagement with DCMS and other interested agencies in person, likely via a roundtable involving officials.

In the meantime, we have identified some key questions set out below which are within the scope of the consultation that we think are of particular relevance to foundations. We would welcome your contribution, whether case studies, links to useful material, specific views or general comments. 

In addition, if you feel there are other issues beyond those outlined that you would like to comment on, please let us know and we will endeavour to incorporate your thoughts into our final response.

The role and worth of civil society

How could the government recognise and promote the contribution of civil society more effectively and consistently?

How could the expertise and evidence held and demonstrated by civil society be shared more effectively with government, and what could government do to assist?

What is the civil society’s role in advocating and providing constructive challenge to government, and how can this be most effectively enabled?

The role of foundations in strengthening society

How do we ensure that the vital contribution of foundations better understood and valued by government?

What can foundations do that other parts of civil society cannot (e.g. independence, spending power, networks, ‘helicopter view’ of issues and communities)?

Should foundations work directly with government (e.g. match-funding, engagement in policy discussion)?

The role of grants, endowments and social investment

What can grants achieve that other forms of social currency cannot (e.g. contracts)?

How should foundations respond to increasing pressure on their resources (e.g. collaboration, convening, funder-plus support)? 

What is the utility and scalability of social investment?

Should foundations be doing more to leverage their endowments in service of their charitable aims (e.g. share action, divestment)?

The role of place and community

What are the guiding principles, and potentially benefits, of place-based funding?

How can national foundations meaningfully engage with local communities?

What are the ethical considerations for funders working in a disruptive or innovative way at a local level (e.g. legacy, infrastructure, leadership, pilot vacuum)?


ACF will seek to ensure that the role of foundations is represented in the strategy, and we would therefore welcome your thoughts in order to inform our submission. We hope that as many members as possible will be able to contribute to ensure it is as representative of the whole foundation sector as possible.

Please send any thoughts to Max Rutherford, Head of Policy, on in the first instance.


Keiran Goddard
Director of External Affairs


* Civil society is defined in the document as: “inclusive of all those outside of the public sector, who share the mission of building a stronger society and improving lives, regardless of traditional sector boundaries such as charity or private, and for profit or not. This mission-based interpretation will encompass individuals, movements, groups, organisations and businesses.”

We support UK foundations and grant-making charities